A Beginner’s Look at the Zachman Framework for Enterprise Archit ecture

February 2, 2012


The Zachman Framework can be a little intimidating if you have never heard of it, especially if you have only the vaguest knowledge of Enterprise Architecture. That was my case when given the challenge to study and present the Zachman Framework. If you work for a company and find yourself wondering what they are going on about in the Enterprise Architecture group, read on and maybe you can join in the EA effort by showing them the Zachman basics. Or if you are an accomplished EA professional looking for some a friendly introduction to Zachman concepts for your C-Level colleagues, send them the link to this blog.

My goal is to remove the intimidation factor and provide you with a working vocabulary of the Zachman Framework, and enough curiosity to do your own research.

Some vocabulary:

– Zachman – John Zachman. Credited with being the progenitor of the field of Enterprise Architecture circa 1987.(2)

– Framework – Structure serving to hold the parts of something together. The basic structure, arrangement or system. (3)

– Enterprise Architecture – the collective parts of a larger whole (the enterprise) assembled in some intentional fashion, in this case “especially the business processes, technologies, and information systems of the enterprise.” (2)

– Ontology – the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being, reality, or ultimate substance. (3)

Originally purposed as an architectural framework for information systems, John Zachman created a matrix of six rows by six columns which promote a series of questions about an enterprise. The answers to the questions arranged within the structure of the 6×6 grid provide enough information to understand how the pieces of a process, organization, or other assembled whole work (or don’t) together. In that way, the Zachman Framework allows us to sort through the reality of a business so that we may know the structure of how the business works and maybe see what is missing or not working. You don’t have do much searching on Zachman to run up on the word “ontology” which hints at the need for a deeper understanding of what John Zachman is getting at.

More Vocabulary:

– Primitive Interrogatives – What? How? Where? Who? When? and Why?. These are the column headers of the 6×6 Zachman grid.(1)

– Reification Transformations – Identification, Definition, Representation, Specification, Configuration, and Instantiation. These are the row labels of the 6×6 Zachman grid.(1)

– Artifact – any object produced by human work. The contents of the cells at the intersections of the rows and columns of the grid.(3) and me.

– Taxonomy – laws and principles covering the classifying of objects (artifacts).(3)

When confronted with planning the implementation of a new organization or when trying to understand the workings of an existing company, the questions ultimately end up being the same. These are the primitive interrogatives. The primitive interrogatives initiate or help to form questions. The answers to these questions provide practical information on how the new organization will look or on how the existing business operates in the real world. A reification transformation is a step in the process of moving from idle creative thought to some manifestation in reality. For instance, if I am thinking the grass needs to be cut, reification is the transformation from that thought in my mind to a mown lawn in reality.

A dream house lives as just that, a dream, stored as a set of ideas in your mind. You begin speaking with and architect, and builders, and contractors, maybe neighbors, and inspectors about your dream house. Most importantly you work with an architect because she knows how to represent your dreams in drawings and how to communicate your ideas to the builders and craftsmen who will create reality from your idle musings. The architect is the channel in the reification (the making real) of your dream home.

Suppose you dream of building a company, or you have a vision of how your current business should look and work. The Zachman Framework provides a starting point for collecting and arranging the artifacts (the units of reality) that make up the organization or enterprise.

The reality is that Zachman works best as a classification tool used in the field of Enterprise Architecture. A classification is not real but helps understand reality. The artifacts or objects classified are real and it is the interaction of the artifacts, how they work together that is real. I think that is where ontology comes in.

I hope you find yourself wondering about the specifics of the 6×6 grid that is the Zachman Framework. I hope you are wishing I had included an example. Well, that is the challenge. You give it a shot. Remember Google knows everything and here in Alabama “Enterprise” is a town.

Bob Woolverton

cited works:

1) http://www.zachman.com/about-the-zachman-framework The Zachman International web site

2) http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb466232.aspx#eacompar_topic2 A Comparison of the Top Four Enterprise-Architecture Methodologies by Roger Sessions

3) Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language

4) http://www.datagovernance.com/fwo3_zachman_framework.html DataGovernance.com “Zachman Framework”


3 Responses to “A Beginner’s Look at the Zachman Framework for Enterprise Archit ecture”

  1. Helen Todd said

    Nice job Bob, I can hear you in this post…it sounds like you. I liked the definitions and if I had never heard of the Zachman model it gives me a good beginning picture. What will be most interesting to me is to see how this model works.

  2. Robert Hanson said

    good stuff, Bob. you made Zachman a little easier to comprehend. I hope I get to apply this to my employment in the future.

  3. Mike Gann said

    Bob, extra points for mentioning Enterprise – the town I went to high school in. Also, the ontology angle in your post was interesting in how it seems to correlate with searches on Zachman. If we hadn’t covered it in class, then yes I would be intersted in using the Google Oracle to find out more.

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